Bishops ask House members to ban concealed guns in churches

Three major Christian denominations Thursday asked to be spared the rod under legislation that would allow Kansans to carry concealed weapons.

“Even Dodge City during its wildest frontier period prohibited guns in churches,” the church bishops said in a prepared statement.

A bill that has passed the Senate would allow Kansans to carry concealed guns. The measure includes a list of places where the weapons couldn’t be carried, which include schools, government buildings, mental health centers and other areas.

But efforts to add churches and libraries to that list failed. So if a church wanted to ban guns, it would have to post a sign.

“Instead of a ‘Welcome’ sign or a ‘You are entering a house of prayer for all people’ sign, every worshipper will be greeted by a ‘No guns’ sign,” the churches said.

The bishops of the United Methodist Church of the Kansas area, the Central States Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas urged House members to add churches to the list of places where concealed guns couldn’t be carried. The churches have approximately 200,000 members.

The bishops said children were often in churches, and pastors sometimes provide counseling similar to mental health centers, where guns are not allowed.

Sen. Phil Journey, R-Haysville, one of the major sponsors of the concealed carry bill, fought against adding churches to the list.

“Churches are private property, and they should be given the chance” to decide whether to allow concealed guns, Journey said. “Government shouldn’t make that choice for them.”

But during a House committee hearing Thursday, Journey testified he was willing to compromise on the question of churches and libraries.

“If it helps get this bill on the books, I’m willing to accept that amendment,” he said.

Under Journey’s bill, Kansans who are 21 or older and U.S. citizens could obtain a four-year concealed carry permit by filling out an application with the local sheriff and paying a fee of up to $150.

The attorney general’s office would issue the permits after conducting background checks to eliminate those with a felony record, a history of mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction, or a physical infirmity that would prevent safe handling of a weapon.

Permit applicants would be required to complete an eight-hour safety and training course by a firearms instructor certified by the attorney general or the National Rifle Assn.